excerpt, p.3

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When Cathy died, I was consumed with grief. One evening I went to a business meeting at the breast cancer organization where I had been volunteering and noticed that I could barely keep my attention on the conversation. After the meeting I walked out with Pat Brown who was on the board of directors, one of the founders of the organization, and a breast cancer survivor. When I told her about my friend’s death and my difficulty concentrating, she said in a matter-of-fact yet thoughtful manner that she had envisioned her own death. She wrote a eulogy, imagined her funeral, and tried to come to terms with the fact that she was going to die—and that most likely she would die from breast cancer. She said, “After I faced my death in my own mind, I could get on with the work I had to do. Your friend  probably faced her death long before she died.” From that brief conversation, I reached new understanding.

How we face death says a lot about how we live our lives, and fear of death can impede action as well as shape it. Now I see that Cathy, along with my piano teacher and my friend’s sister, had a significant influence on my own consciousness about breast cancer. My memories of them, along with the experiences I’ve had with the hundreds of people I know who are living with or who have died from breast cancer, inform and ground my social analysis. Sociologist John Lofland and his colleagues call this process “starting where you are.” In making “problematic” in our research that which is problematic in our lives, researchers’ personal experiences can contribute to their understanding of the comparable experiences of those studied. Making sense of pink ribbon culture in a way that bears upon my own experiences and those of people I care about helps me to understand better the relevance of American society’s war on breast cancer.

Pink ribbon culture is problematic. This book explains why.

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